Thoughts from John: 3 The love which banishes fear
The third and final thing I wanted to share is John’s comment in 1 John 4:18: But perfect love drives out fear.’
The immediate context of these verses is John’s discussion of God’s love for us. God is love. If we have love in our hearts, says John, it’s a sign that our hearts are at one with God. And therefore we need not fear God’s judgement, because already we have chosen the way of love. Perfect love drives out fear.
Reading 1 John 4, I think John is saying ‘Look, once you realise how much God loves you then you feel a reciprocal flame of love for God in your heart, and that love will flow out to other people. You’ll simply know for certain that God loves you and that therefore there is absolutely no need to fear judgement or anything else. If, on the other hand you do fear judgement, then it’s simply a wee memo to yourself that you have not yet fully entered into the wonder of God’s love for you.’
My own experience is that you don’t arrive at this sense of perfect love, and then live invariably in the light of it. You can lose sight of God’s love, and that both affects your ability to show love to others and to yourself, and also opens the door to fear. The challenge is to turn, morning by morning and moment by moment to this God who loves us so much, and find in the divine love freedom to love, and freedom from fear.
And of course, love is not only the answer to fear of judgement, love is the answer to all our fears. It helps us enormously to know that we are loved by a parent or sister or brother or partner or friend. But we can envisage fearful situations where their love, great though it is, would be unable to protect us.
But God’s love does not fail us – ever, in time, or in the dimension beyond. Even death cannot separate us from the love of God, so certainly nothing life throws at us can separate us from that love.
We are loved in these dark days of coronavirus. We are loved with a love which invites a joyful response, a love which will not let us go.
A love which announces ‘Be gone fear’’ as love’s sustaining arms are flung around our neck.